by Shannon Laning
As Jesus gets approaches the cross, we see shift in the urgency of his teaching. He seems more intense than before. I believe He senses his imminent and impending fate.
Chapter 18 begins with the disciples highlighting their humanity by asking Jesus who will be the greatest in the kingdom? Honestly, if I had just spent a ton of time with the gift of healing and ministering to all kinds of people, I think that my pride would be bursting from my body. Jesus doesn’t lash out. He doesn’t even sternly rebuke them. Instead, He turns upside down their thinking of what is great by saying that childlike faith is great. This is encouraging. Jesus isn’t looking for everyone to be Billy Graham. He wants us to take the gifts and abilities we’ve been given, lay them down before Him, and ask Him what to do with all of it. And then do it.
One thing that strikes me about Jesus is how he elevates the status woman and children in a culture that devalued them. Think about it, the fact that Jesus even talked to the Canaanite woman is astounding. She was a woman, not a Jew, and lived in a pagan party town. All of those things gave men in that day enough reason to ignore her. And now we see Jesus expressing love and affection for children. “Children should be seen and not heard.” Jesus didn’t think so.
“Take heed that you do not despise the little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 18:10). This is likely where the idea of “guardian angels” comes from, and while I don’t know for sure if each person has a guardian angel, I do believe that angels are around us. The Bible even says that we should be kind to strangers because in doing so we may have unknowingly been in the presence of an angel. How cool is that? Do you think you’ve ever met an angel? Well, I have. I know that might sound a little hokey to you, but let me lay out the evidence and you can decide for yourself what you think. Know this though; there is an entire spiritual universe that we can’t see.
Years ago, maybe even 20, my family and I were vacationing in the nation’s capital. Not only did we get to sit through a session of Congress where Michael (my younger brother) fell asleep, but we saw landmarks and historical sights that I had only read about. I was and am a history nerd; the entire experience was enthralling.
As a native west Texas family who felt that 10 minutes equates to a “long drive across town,” let’s just say that taking public transportation wasn’t the norm. One day in DC, my dad herded us toward a subway only to yell, “Not this one!” as my little brother, Michael, stepped into “this one.” The doors closed behind him, whisking him off to who-knows-where in one of the biggest cities on the eastern seaboard. My mom broke into hysterics as my dad ordered us to stay put while he alerted subway officials. Not 45 seconds later, Michael was walking back to us with a man in an expensive trench coat who simply said, “Here he is.” We grabbed Michael and turned to thank the man, but he vanished. My dad went to find him, describing him to people, and no one had seen him.
That man was an angel. I think we spend too much time explaining away miracles with medicine, science, common sense, etc. We think that it might seem weird to say the supernatural interacts with the natural world. But if we truly believe that Jesus is who He said He was and did what He said He did, then the supernatural is always with us. Regardless of what side of the argument you are on, can we just all agree with this: God is a loving Father, angels are real, and we are in desperate need of saving on a daily basis. I am so thankful we serve a God who elevates the status of women and children, intimately knows our needs, and rescues us from disaster. In Michael’s case, He just used a well dressed man to do it.